Afghanistan is now the hardest place in the world to be a Christian. For the first time since the Open Doors World Watch List began, Afghanistan is number one – replacing North Korea, even though persecution got worse in North Korea too.
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, it made headlines around the world. Secret believers in the country had always known it was a possibility – and even before this takeover, Christians faced extreme persecution in Afghanistan. The country was already number two on the Open Doors World Watch List. Somehow it got even worse. For the first time ever, Afghanistan is number one on the World Watch List.
“I grew up in Afghanistan,” says Zabi, a young woman whose name has been changed for security reasons. “My family are secret believers – well, my father and brother and me. My mother remained a Muslim.”
Christians in Afghanistan know that the Taliban are seeking them out, and will murder them without a second thought. Zabi knows first-hand how dangerous the Taliban can be. They have already had a devastating impact on her and her family.
“A few years ago, the Taliban came and they took my father away, because he was a Christian,” she shares. “They tortured and killed him. A few months later, my brother also disappeared. We never heard of him again.”
It’s hard to conceive of all that Zabi has been through. And now she has had to leave behind everything she owns. Zabi and her mother fled Afghanistan to a neighbouring country – along with the many thousands of others who left and are now refugees, including many Christians.
“Our situation is desperate. I feel alone and hopeless.”ZABI
“Our situation is desperate,” she says. “What will happen to me? I don’t know. I’m praying I can leave this country and go somewhere safe. I may have to go into hiding. Or I’ll be deported to Afghanistan. I may be killed if that happens.”
Zabi puts it starkly: “I feel alone and hopeless.”
When local Open Doors partners first made contact with Zabi, she was particularly worried about finding money for food. Thankfully, these partners are able to support Zabi and her mother with emergency food, shelter and prayer.
“God led our frontline partners to Zabi,” shares an Open Doors partner in the region. “They are now in regular contact with her. We have encouraged her, prayed with her, given her food and we pay the rent for her apartment and have given her some money, so that she is currently safe and able to survive. We’ll continue to help her, although we don’t know what her future will hold for her.”
“Thank God for your food and clothes deliveries, your financial support and your prayers and encouragement”ZABI
Your gifts and prayers are already making an enormous difference to Zabi’s life: “Thank God for your food and clothes deliveries, your financial support and your prayers and encouragement,” she says. “You are a strand of hope to me. There’s a chance I may live.”
“Zabi’s grateful for the support, but it’s like being happy that someone showed up to the funeral of a loved one,” adds a local partner in the country neighbouring Afghanistan. “You’re happy this person is there, but you’re still overwhelmed with grief. It’s the same for her. She’s so thankful that we’re helping, but at the same time, she’s still in shock about what happened.
“It’s difficult for her to express what has happened and how she feels. We just have to be with her and help her where we can.”
So many other vulnerable believers from countries in the Open Doors World Watch List top 10 need the same urgent help. Zabi is still very depressed and uncertain about her future, though still trusting in God and faithfully following Jesus. Millions of other Christians make that same courageous choice every day.
One in seven Christians face persecution because of their faith. That’s more than 360 million men, women and children who choose to follow Jesus, despite knowing that they may have to sacrifice their home, their freedom, their job – even their life. Many, like Zabi, have to flee their homes – living either as refugees in another country, or displaced within their own country. Others cannot leave, or choose to remain, and faithfully follow Jesus in the face of extreme persecution and discrimination.
Thank you for being that ‘strand of hope’ that Zabi describes. Your prayers and giving help these brothers and sisters know that they aren’t alone: Christians from Afghanistan, North Korea and all the countries in the World Watch List top 10 need your ongoing support. Please keep showing them that they are not on their own.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus. Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.